Category Archives: Uganda

Soft Power buys two new ISSB machines

Would you like to know how we are saving tonnes of trees with every classroom we build?


We not only looking out for education but also looking after the Ugandan environment and keeping it green as we go.

Thanks to some incredible fundraising from supporters Melinda and Steve Robinson from Australia, we have just purchased two new Interlocking Stabilized Soil Block Machines (ISSB). In simple terms, a manual brick making machine, which will help with all of the building projects that we are involved in.

Traditional methods of brick making in Uganda comprise of taking a clay based mud and making a square block by hand, they are approximately the same size as any other brick elsewhere in the world. The problem is that because they are made by hand they are not a consistent shape, and they come in a variety of sizes. After making the brick they are then put into a pyramid stack with a gap in the middle where a fire is lit, they cover the top with banana leaves and dry grass (a handmade Kiln process). The bricks are then fired for 96 hours – constantly keeping the fire burning with wood, and are left to cool for 4 days. The bricks are then stored for 4 – 6 months before they are used.




This whole process is –


1. Labour intensive,
2. Bad for the environment because of the amount of wood needed to ‘cook’ the bricks,
3. Makes the building process longer and more expensive as the builders use more cement for mortar and rendering because of the imperfections of the bricks.

The new ISSB machine is an old technology that originated in France over 800 years ago. Kenya over the past 25 years have redeveloped the system because the Government has banned the cutting of timber to fire bricks the traditional way, knowing what it was doing to the environment.


Since 1991, Dr Moses Musaazi, an engineer at Makerere University in Kampala, has developed a technique which, by mixing soil and cement and then compressing the dampened mixture in a mould, produces an interlocking block (twice the size of a normal brick) that is stronger and more uniformly shaped than a conventional brick.


Dr Musaazi says: “Cutting down trees for firing bricks is second to charcoal burning in destroying Uganda’s forest cover. The adoption of this technology will dramatically reduce this environmental damage.


We have been looking at these machines for the past 6 years and today we are finally taking delivery of two machines.  The new machines make blocks from a specific soil called murram, cement and water. It takes 2 people to operate and can produce 300 – 400 blocks in an 8 hour day. On top of all that they are also interlocking which saves on cement costs in between bricks. Several teams of Soft Power Builders have been trained in the process in association with The Haileybury Youth Trust.


The benefits of the ISSB bricks:


1.    The making of 3000 ISSB blocks will save 10 tonnes of trees.

2.    The blocks do not need to be fired

3.    Cost saving because of less time needed to make them.

4.    Only one bag of cement is needed to make 150 blocks. (cement is incredibly expensive in Uganda)

5.    They are double the size of a normal fired brick so you only need to use half the number of bricks.

6.    There is no mortar needed between the bricks because of the interlocking system, so mortar is only needed on top and bottom of the brick.

7.    Uniformed shape for every brick, which uses less mortar and render – saves up to 50% compared to using fired bricks.

8.    Are weather resistant and can be used in the construction of septic and water tanks. (There is a curved ISSB machine which can make curved bricks for water tanks)

9.    The bricks are manufactured on site, saving transportation and damage.

10. Bricks are used 4 hours after making them, therefore construction can continue as the bricks are being made.

11. The ISSB system uses Ugandan road base as its main ingredient mixed with cement.

We will be using this type of brick in all buildings and water tanks from now on. This will make construction costs cheaper and the buildings and water tanks stronger. The biggest benefit – all monies fundraised for Soft Power Education will now go further!


Make sure to check the website soon for an update on our new buildings using the new ISSB technology.